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Scholarly Voice: Audience

Basics

Knowing your audience is the most crucial component of the writing process.  Scientific writing is for an audience of scholars who have a particular interest: original scholarship that matters.  Strive to make your writing sound serious, professional, intelligent, and informed. 

For example, if you are writing an article for a scholarly journal, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do the journals in my field share a common definition of the concepts I am discussing? For instance, if you plan to discuss a certain trend in your field, can you assume that your colleagues will be familiar with that trend and the language you are using to describe it? A quick review of current journals in your field should help you determine the common practice and the best language to use in your work.
  • Could this term or topic be understood differently by different readers? For instance, buzzwords like at-risk and burnout appear in many Walden papers, often with very different implications and contexts. If you plan to use a term that may have different interpretations, be sure to define it clearly for the purposes of your paper.
  • Is this an idea that is particularly present in my own environment? Sometimes, writers assume that a reader will be familiar with an idea because it is so prevalent in their own setting. The problem, of course, is that every workplace or region is different, and what may be a pressing issue in one place is not important in another. Rather than using language that suggests a universal trend, use language that explains and examines the idea in its own environment.
  • Am I assuming that the reader already believes in the importance of this issue? When writers have a passion for solving a certain problem, they often forget to clarify why it is a problem. Remember that while your reader may share some of your knowledge base, he or she might not share your perspective. Any time you find yourself beginning a sentence with "We all know that ___ is a problem," you will want to stop and examine that assumption. Remember to use language that shows you have considered the readers' ideas as well as your own.

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